February - March 2008

'Proud of Simi Valley UCC'

I live in Brazil as a long-term volunteer mission personnel. I want to congratulate the Simi Valley (Calif.) UCC for giving sanctuary to Liliana and her baby ["Simi Valley UCC offering sanctuary to immigrant facing deportation," Oct.-Nov. 2007]. This church community is truly following Christ. It is hard for me to believe that there would be any objection for this action.

The United States of America was founded by immigrants, developed into the country it is today by immigrants and their descendents. The Statue of Liberty with her hands open wide inviting all who are oppressed, etc., is the symbol of welcoming to the shores of America, the land of the free. The latest issues of whether illegal immigrants can get drivers licenses or their children get schooling or medical attention, is beyond my understanding as a Christian, even considering all the economic and social issues involved. My, how the United States in the modern world has wandered from its original openness.

It is also hard for me to understand that the politicians who make these laws think they are practicing their faith as Christians. It is hard for me, having dealt with immigration myself, to believe these officers know what being a Christian is.

I am proud to be affiliated with a church like the Simi Valley UCC.

The Rev. Barbara de Souza
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

'God has a way'

I have been especially pleased with the Rev. John Thomas' outreach to Iraqis of all stripes not only in their times of terrible travail within their country but also to those who have fled, are fleeing or are now finding is possible to make their way home. The response to the call for prayers and for funds is gratifying indeed.

One Arabic saying reads either as Rabbana bydabbir or Allah yudabbir and translates as something along the lines of "God has a way of doing it."  Perhaps we in the UCC are a present instrument as enablers in this context and in doing so keep faith with the past and the Congregational missionaries who had followed and ministered to "Assyrian" Christians, and presumably to other Iraqis as well, who came down to Mosul from Iran after World War I.

Some of our churches are now in personal relationships with Iraqi refugee families in our own communities, certainly many of whom arrive nearly destitute on our shores, and have the privilege of welcoming them and galvanizing ourselves and our resources as we attempt rapidly to meet some of their manifold needs. And we are indeed blessed.

Jeanne B. Barnett
McLean, Va.

'Injustice is violence'

Peace Bubble needs a hole put in it. Peace is the absence of its opposite (hostility, animosity, warfare, disruption, disorder, etc.). Peace is not 'getting along,' 'avoiding controversy,' 'smiling at your neighbor.' Smiles are overrated and no substitute for peace, unless you equate peace with accommodation and avoiding controversy.

But peace doesn't mean having no enemies. Peace means loving your enemies. Peace is dependent upon justice. No justice, no peace. Check it out. Think about it.

Justice, as Thucydides said, will not come until those who are not injured are as indignant as those who are injured. Justice means absence of injustice, and injustice is easier to define than justice. Injustice is exploitation, the ascendance of greed, power, lust. Injustice is violence, whether in streets, boardrooms, or legislative halls.
Think about it. Check it out.

Richard Ellerbrake
Lebanon, Ill.

Ease up on 'bully'

Thomas Warren's bible study titled "Christmas Ploughshares" [Dec.-Jan.] was indeed timely. No Christian can read our Bible without realizing the destructiveness of human violence. All Christians should pray and work for peace in our world.

Unfortunately, Rev. Warren could not avoid drawing incorrect conclusions. In paragraph six, he refers to "shadow dwelling insurgents." A synonym for insurgents is "rebels." Those who are deliberately targeting women and children should be called what they are — terrorists. These people have no regard for human life and they are not willing to argue their opinions in the court of world opinion. They see to kill only to achieve power.

In the same paragraph, he refers to "an imperial bully with global reach." A bully enjoys oppressing others, usually to achieve some warped goal of false superiority. So I think it's appropriate to ask: Does an imperial bully encourage and sponsor free elections? Build roads, electric plants schools and hospitals in foreign lands? Come rapidly to the aid of victims of flood, famine and tidal waves? Rev. Warren would have done better to acknowledge that those "insurgents" would gladly murder many more innocents if it were not for the "imperial bully."

The Rev. Jerry S. Clausen
Ludlow, Mass. 

'Were I starting now…'

When I retired as a UCC pastor I calculated the annual UCC pension payment would amount to 4 to 6 percent of the amount my account had accrued. The variance depends on whether we requested payment for both my wife and me or just myself.

Since the account had grown historically at a rate higher than that, it appeared the Pension Board would essentially pay back part of the interest and keep the "principle." Inquiries to the Pension Board have not generated a satisfactory response.

My financial planner says this is not an uncommon rate for corporate pensions. Understandably, they must protect the account. As of last Dec. 31, the Pension Board held well over $280,000 for every member, active and retired.

I suspect churches have no idea they are giving to a fund that will essentially yield interest only to their pastor. Were I starting now, I would request a 401k account. 

Larry Winters
Cheney, Wash. 


Rev. J. Bennett Guess
Executive Minister, Local Church Ministries
700 Prospect Ave.
Cleveland,Ohio 44115